TAR HEEL VIEW: HB2 deal falls through due to partisan politics

The carrot was dangling inches from our fingertips and just before we could grab it, it was quickly snatched away.

The carrot in this instance was having HB2 repealed by our state legislators. After more than six months of having concerts canceled by Bruce Springsteen and others, seeing companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank decline to expand their businesses, and having the NBA, the NCAA and the ACC pull their games out of the state, it seemed we had a compromise in place.

On Friday, a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory confirmed there was a deal for state lawmakers to repeal HB2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

“For the last nine months, the governor has consistently said state legislation is only needed if the Charlotte ordinance remains in place,” said spokesman Josh Ellis. “If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers … the governor will call a special session.

“It is the governor’s understanding that legislative leaders … agree with that assessment.”

Finally it appeared HB2 would be in our collective rearview mirror and we could focus on attracting new businesses to the state, getting the NBA All-Star Game to return and getting the NCAA and the ACC to bring back their championships.

All that separated us from returning to normalcy was the Charlotte City Council repealing its ordinance. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts yanked the rug right out from under us.

“The City of Charlotte continues its commitment to be a welcoming community that honors and respects all people,” Roberts said in a statement. “We appreciate the state wanting to find a solution to the challenges we are facing and applaud the governor for recognizing the state should overturn HB2, which the state can do at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.”

At its meeting Monday, Roberts affirmed that the City of Charlotte was standing firm on the decision to keep its ordinance on the book. But not all members of the council — including some Democrats — were pleased with the decision.

Democratic council member at-large Claire Fallon told Charlotte TV station WSOC, “I wish we had statesmen, and not politicians, who did what was best for the city. It’s bleeding. Everybody has their own agenda getting elected and everything else, which is very unimportant in the scheme of things.”

Fallon hinted at what was hiding under the surface. According to a story on the Charlotte TV station WBTV’s website, there were seven members of the council ready to vote to repeal the ordinance — that is surprising since Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-2 — until state Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) got involved.

WBTV’s Nick Ochsner reported Carney lobbied council members to vote against the repeal of the ordinance. Ochsner added that two Democrats, Mayor pro Tem Vi Lyles and Councilwoman Julie Eiselt, flipped their support.

Carney attempted to laugh off the impression she influenced Lyles and Eiselt to change their vote to keep the ordinance on the books.

“I find it humorous that I would have that kind of power to tell them not to vote for this,” Carney said to WBTV.

However, there is a fellow Democratic member of the state legislature that says Carney purposely torpedoed the deal for political reasons. Ochsner said his source confirmed that Republican lawmakers had enough support to repeal HB2 in a special session once Charlotte voted to repeal its ordinance. Carney is believed to have been adamant about being against the deal so Democrats could use HB2 as a tool in the November elections.

“This deal was done, and was going to be done, but for three people and they’re all sitting in Charlotte,’ the Democratic lawmaker said. “Three people in Charlotte are holding North Carolina hostage right now.”

Opponents of HB2 will say all the weight of repealing the law rests heavily on the shoulders of the Republican leadership. However, proponents will counter by saying if it wasn’t for those council members enacting the ordinance, HB2 would never have been written. It is the age-old argument of the chicken and the egg.

Both sides of the issue could have come out of the compromise looking like winners to their base and the state would have gone back to square one, but Carney decided to play the partisan politics card.

It is sad in today’s landscape politicians would rather be Democrats or Republicans first instead of being North Carolinians. We need to return to when our elected leaders did what was best for the city, county or state they represented, not their political aspirations.

The Sanford Herald

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